Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Kate Miller.
"Every cowboy out there owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Humane Society of the United States,” said Fred Stokes, former Executive Director for the Organization for Competitive Markets.
Nauseating testimony straight from the source during a 2012 press conference, when OCM announced a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). There is little denying that OCM has struck a deal with the devil to further their own agenda, which seems less intent on increasing market competition than using socialist principles to have the government regulate the winners.
Since the 2012 partnership announcement, Joe Maxwell, former HSUS Vice President of Outreach, would take over the helm at OCM as the Executive Director. They would go on to add another staffer from the ranks of HSUS employees, Angela Huffman, a former communications staffer for HSUS and now the current OCM Director of Communications and Research. In fact, within the last few weeks, OCM has begun recruiting for a new staff member, with a starting salary of $36,000-40,000. It’s clear that HSUS and OCM are inextricably linked in staffing and the organization’s staff roster looks to be growing. But with OCM’s reported revenue of just $25,000 in 2015 and $46,000 in 2016, how is staffing funded? (See their income disclosures from 2002-2016 here.)
R-CALF USA Follows Suit
R-CALF USA has made repeated claims to not be aligned with the HSUS. A smart move from a public relations standpoint when your brand is built on supporting the American rancher. But as circumstantial evidence mounts to the contrary, even in the absence of a public declaration of allegiance, questions arise.
R-CALF USA and OCM are outspoken and vocal allies. They have partnered together on legislative action in Oklahoma to stop the Oklahoma Right to Farm Bill, and as the victors in that case solidified their shared mutual goal to end the Beef Checkoff program. In the Oklahoma 777 race, HSUS was a substantial donor to the primary political action committee charged with heading the campaign for the ‘no’ vote. The Stewardship Council’s campaign disclosures for the 4th quarter of 2016 show a summary of donations totaling $450,000. At the very least, the trio’s motives and agenda were aligned.
Former head of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, Dudley Butler is named as an attorney for R-CALF USA. Butler has a history of filing lawsuits against the Beef Checkoff Program. He also has history with Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), of which he is a member. Butler’s relationship with the HSUS is also well known, he even appeared in a video before an HSUS audience (available here) which was posted to Butler’s own social media feed.
Perhaps the most concerning however is the latest campaign where Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA welcomed help from Public Justice and David Muraskin, an attorney who has a long track record of filing lawsuits on behalf of groups who are working to put farmers and ranchers out of business. Muraskin has worked on behalf of PETA, Western Watersheds Project, and Natural Resources Defense Council. This is the lead attorney on R-CALF’s lawsuit against the Montana Beef Council. In R-CALF’s most recent filing in support of the case, Muraskin has expanded the lawsuit to cover a total of 15 state beef councils, to include Maryland. Muraskin may be the hired gun to represents R-CALF USA’s disenfranchisement narrative in court, but this does not make him a champion of the American cattle industry.
As you can see, it is simple to connect the dots between R-CALF USA’s alliances to their public work against the advancement of the industry. In an industry that used to maintain a zero-tolerance policy for breaking bread with organizations that actively champion our demise, OCM and R-CALF USA stand as examples that the landscape has changed. Whether or not these liaisons with extremist groups prove to be change in the name of progress remain to be seen.
From my chair however, I remain deeply skeptical about false prophets. Are we keeping the wolf in sheep clothing at bay, or thanks to R-CALF and OCM is he now sitting first chair?
Kate Miller, communications director for Stand Up Republic Arkansas, is a third-generation rancher, a tenured meat processing professional and has a development background in global trade.